MXlarge's Geoff Meyer checks in with Kiwi Ben Townley following his GP return at Valkenswaard.
Watching Ben Townley rolling around in 16th position at last weekend’s Grand Prix of Netherlands wasn’t a great feeling. I don’t think anyone could have taken pleasure from it.
We all recall the grand old days of his intense battle with Marc De Reuver in the 2004 GP of Netherlands, or his mastery of Stefan Everts, Joel Smets and Mickael Pichon throughout the 2005 MX1 Championship.
Townley might be back in Europe, but it’s going to be some time before he is back to the Ben Townley of 2004 and 2005. Will it happen? You can count on it.
The New Zealand has been one of the true hero’s of the sport in the last ten years and once he recovers from his present issues you can be sure he will once again be riding at the front of a Grand Prix pack and hunting for GP victories.
We caught up with Ben at the gym this week and while he sounded a little down you could tell he is working hard to get back to the level he had at last year’s AMA Nationals and Motocross of Nations. Here is what he told us.
Ben, I can’t even imagine how bad you feel at the moment. That couldn’t have been much fun riding around in 16th place.
I underestimated it a little bit, but I felt pretty good riding the last couple of weeks, but just going to the Grand Prix, the length of the races and how rough the track was, it took its toll on me.
It wasn’t as bad as people might think, I just wanted to be realistic and I am coming back from a couple of injuries and I haven’t had much time on the bike. I went into it just wanting to get out there and start building up and I realized that I wasn’t in the position I wanted to be.
Riding around in that position sucks, but it was nice to get out there and ride. I just wanted to get out there and ride.
What is the main problem is your condition just not good, or you’re mentally not focused?
No, it’s my condition. When I had the injury when I broke my jaw and had the concussion I was advised by some really good doctors to take eight weeks off the bike and the first six weeks just nothing at all.
Take all the strain off my head to give it a mental rest. I wasn’t able to do any training at all and that has obviously taken its toll. That amount of time sitting on the couch I have lost a lot of physical strength and fitness.
Coming back to Valkenswaard where you won in 2004 and you always rode good in the sand. There is also a positive side from the weekend?
It is nice to be back and frustrating I guess, but that is also something I am trying to change, I want to make good decisions and that is why I didn’t push in the weekend, but it was nice to be back with my team and start moving forward.
Although a lot of people might have not seen a lot on the weekend it is nice to start that process of being where I want to be. It’s been a long time since I achieved what I want to achieve and that is the biggest thing I am trying to achieve and be realistic at the same time.
How was Valkenswaard, because it was obviously very rough, but it was also a little like hard pack?
The number of wheels turning laps over the track made it a lot different. I mean with the Europeans and the vets it was a lot different to what it was like when I used to race there before.
In saying that the conditions with it being really dry made the track a lot different sand track, we had more choppy bumps rather than nice rolling bumps; the whole track condition was different.
I talked about that in the press conference, with the slower riders and not taking anything away from the Europeans or the vets, but the track formed up totally different to if you just have MX2 and MX1 riders on the track. The track was put to the test.
That is your first European GP since 2005, what are for you the positive and negatives in Grand Prix Motocross since you were here in 2005?
I was asked this question on the weekend as well, and to be honest I don’t believe it’s changed a lot and that isn’t a bad thing, because it was already a great level when I left in 2005.
I don’t believe it’s grown a lot, it obviously hasn’t changed a lot, but the things I did notice were the amount of work they do on the track and the obstacles they have, also the pit lane section is a huge difference from when I was here, and adds the professional side of it.
So there are not huge changes, but it was at a good level when I left.
What level are you looking for in France, I mean how much can you do in six weeks?
It’s not something I am putting a hell of a lot of attention to. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be a lot higher, it’s just now putting in time into building my body up and Valkenswaard was a wake-up call to where I am at the moment.
Obviously I have the next five weeks to try sand put some more strength in, and while it doesn’t seem like a lot of time, it will help a lot and it is my main aim. As far as results, that is hard to put a placing on, but for sure I want to be a lot higher than I was in Valkenswaard.
It is possible to tell the level of the Grand Prix guys now?
Well, because I wasn’t even near the level of the front MX1 guys at the moment it’s impossible to tell, but what I can say is that the level of the two or three MX2 riders, those guys are riding at a good level and I don’t expect the MX1 class to be any different.
I was racing at the back of the field, so it is hard for me to give a comment on that.
Will you race in the next month?
I would like to do some national championship races, be it Belgium, Holland or England. I am not sure yet, I haven’t set anything in stone yet. First I want to work on my strength and condition.
That was my plan to get in some races, like I did the British Championship races, like I did that British round, I mean the results didn’t show it, I pulled out in one race, I wanted to get in some racing, just build up to a better level.
Obviously the Grand Prix level was too high for me at this moment. That is why I made the decision to not go to America and Brazil, to build up to my level.
I mean there is a British Championship round this weekend. Would you do that?
I have some more testing this week, before I start racing again. That is another thing, I have missed out on all the pre-season races, so I am growing into my bike and I haven’t had time to make it feel my own yet.
I want to focus on that also. I need to build it up again.
Obviously when we heard the news that you would race in Europe again we all got excited with the expectations of you and Antonio [Cairoli] racing again, your USGP and MXoN results showed you are fast enough. To be riding like you did in those two events is the goal I guess?
I mean my plans have changed dramatically and that is as clear as mud now, but I want to go out there by the end of the season and perform like I know I can and start building myself up.
I didn’t sign the deal to just be here in 2011, I signed to get my career back on track and spend the next few years here and hopefully be in contention to win a world title, or even more and if I can do that then I will be stoked.
I am not just here for one year, it’s more than that, and I want to be a champion again. It’s hard at the moment, and for a lot of people it’s hard to realize, but it’s good for me and it helps me grow into a better person.
The result in Valkenswaard wasn’t worth writing home about, but there is a big picture.